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Understanding Provisional and Utility Patents

Understanding Provisional and Utility Patents

Understanding Provisional and Utility Patents

It is important for new inventors to understand the types of patents available to them. The two most popular patents are Provisional Patents and Utility Patents. Here we will explore the difference between each so that new inventors will have a proper understanding of both.

Provisional Patents

Provisional patents were first made available to inventors by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on June 8, 1995. This precursor to the Utility Patent has become a popular means of obtaining a patent for first time inventors for the following reasons:

  • Less expensive than a 20 year Utility Patent
  • Invention may be slightly changed by a manufacturer to make it more unique
  • No other fees are associated with its maintenance
  • Patent is good for one year from the original filing date

This type of patent is good for new inventors that may want to test the waters with their invention before committing to a more expensive 20 year patent. For the one year time period, the invention receives a “patent pending” status. Another benefit of the one year patent is that if a similar invention is already patented, it may be slightly changed without compromising the invention’s integrity. In other words, the invention will still maintain its function but something about it will be slightly changed to differentiate it from another patent holding invention that may be similar.

Utility Patents

Previously, the USPTO had determined the life of this type of patent to be 17 years. Starting June 8, 1995 the terms of this patent were changed to 20 years. A few things to know about a 20 year patent are:

  • It’s a ‘set in stone’ patent, meaning no changes may be made to it
  • More expensive than the Provisional Patent
  • Patent is awarded a number and is no longer under the ‘patent pending’ status
  • Maintenance fees are associated with this type of patent throughout the 20 year term

While an inventor may choose either of these patents, most choose the Provisional Patent route in hopes that a manufacturer will pick up their invention and therefore be responsible for obtaining a 20 year patent. During the time that the one year patent is active, an inventor may choose to file for either the 20 year patent or they may refile for the one year patent each year indefinitely. However, this means that the old filing date of the original one year patent holds no weight in the patent arena. The inventor is given a new filing date and with each new one year patent application that is filed, whatever the latest filing date is takes precedence.

What this means is that even though an inventor filed for a one year patent in 2011 and refiled for another year in 2012, if another inventor was granted a 20 year patent for the same invention in 2011, the inventor with the 20 year patent takes precedence over the inventor of the same invention with the Provisional Patent. The good news for the one year patent holder is that his invention may still be changed to render it into something unique -again, without losing the integrity of the invention.

However an inventor chooses to patent their invention, it is crucial to the success of the invention to have the basic facts on the types of patents available. A good patent agent, such as LoneStar Patent Services, is able to provide all levels of inventors with the proper guidance so that they may decide the best course of action to take for the success of their invention.

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